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Symptomatology: Malodorous Wounds

Posted Oct 03 2008 11:31am
I have been slowly making my way through the symptoms experienced at the end-of-life. The next symptom I would like to address is the malodorous wound.

People may have malodorous wounds for various reasons throughout their life. However, there are certain wounds seen more often at the end of life. Some of the malodorous wounds seen at the end of life include bedsores and fungating breast cancer lesions. The odor is caused by anaerobic bacteria in necrotic (decaying) tissue, which release volatile fatty acids as a metabolic by-product.

The odor can impact the quality of the patient's life and may lead to social withdrawal, embarassment, shame, and psychological distress.

Some possible interventions for managing these wounds include:

-Cleanse the wound with water or normal saline.
- Metrogel 1% applied to breast cancer lesion daily and covered with an occlusive dressing (such as vaseline gauze). Metronidazole (the active ingredient in Metro-gel) may also be taken orally. The oral form is less expensive, but the few studies that have been performed have shown marked improvement in odor with its use.
- activated charcoal / odor-absorbing dressings. These dressings should be changed daily or more often if the odor becomes noticeable before the next dressing change is due.
-Peppermint oil - many pharmacies carry this oil. You can place gauze in the top with the lid off and it works as an air deodorizer. Peppermint oil is a much more tolerable air freshener than most air deodorizers. Do NOT apply peppermint oil directly to the wound. You can also apply peppermint oil to a wash cloth and drape over a fan or air conditioning vent. Peppermint oil should not be used alone, as it may become associated with the smell of the wound and lose effectiveness.
-Palliative radiation is another option and may help to heal the wound.

Although this post focuses on odor, always remember to treat the pain associated with any wounds.



See Prodigy Guidance for additional information on malodorous wounds.
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